Based on the best-selling autobiography, Killing Bono tells the story of struggling musician (now leading music journalist) Neil McCormick who was at school with a lad called Paul Hewson – who grew up to be Bono. The young Neil also started a band at the same time as U2, but without the fame and global success.
A cracking comedy of errors, Killing Bono follows McCormick (Ben Barnes) and his younger brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) as their rock band, Shook Up, beg, blag and blunder their way through the clubs of 80s Dublin and London.
Things take a turn for the worst when Neil – who is certain his band will be bigger than U2 – fails to tell his brother that they want Ivan to join them on guitar.
Chris Sullivan watched the movie with Neil McCormick before heading to the pub for a chat…
You’re depicted on screen as a rather young and handsome man. How did that happen?
People always get better looking in movies, don't they? Ben Barnes looks like how I always imagined I looked. Indeed, with his looks and my talent, we could have gone far. I actually campaigned quite vigorously to get Bono played by Danny DeVito – that would have been the ultimate revenge.
According to the film you seem to have almost deliberately sabotaged your career as a rock God. Is this true?
There was nothing deliberate about it. I made a lot of decisions, which, in hindsight, were quite bad. But that's the thing about hindsight, it’s no use to anyone when they really need it.
How true to life is Killing Bono?
The film takes the base of my story and pushes it into fiction in a quest for belly laughs. It’s like an anecdote that improves with each retelling. Like most of the best stories, it has artistic rather than literal truth.
Did you take a gun to a U2 appearance?
I once fired an Uzi in Swansea, but Bono was nowhere near at the time.
Did you really go out with your manager, Gloria [Krysten Ritter] and, at the same time, shag the record company’s boss’s wife?
Normally your manager screws you, so it’s nice to turn the tables. The lovely Gloria, although almost completely fictionalised in the film, did manage Shook Up! for a while. We're still together over 20 years later. The record company boss’s wife was invented by the scriptwriters, although Gloria says it’s just the kind of thing I would have done, so you can't win.
So is that all true about your brother and U2?
Ivan was a teenage member of the band who became U2 and he still dines out on that story. There were actually six members of U2 originally, including Edge's brother, Dick. Ivan was mostly tolerated for his electric guitar, which Edge would take off Ivan in rehearsal and hand him his own homemade plank. But I didn't thwart his destiny with fame: the truth is they became U2 by shedding the others along the way. But you should never let facts get in the way of a good story.
Bono seems very gracious. How was he?
He's always been a good friend to me. Probably a better friend than I’ve been to him. He's one of the good guys: a passionate, curious, funny, charismatic character who has managed to negotiate 30 years of stardom without losing his humility, although it may not look like that from the cheap seats. He understands the illusions of showbiz and uses them to bang the drum for causes he believes in. Sometimes he bangs it a bit too loud for a lot of people's tastes but the bottom line is he gets things done, and his charitable activism saves lives.
Has he seen the film?
He has. He thought it was very funny, but would have liked the actor playing him to have been six inches taller.
How true to your book is it?
It captures the spirit of the book without adhering too closely to the facts. But the book still exists. Elton John said it was the best book he'd ever read about trying to make it in the music business. I think it should be required reading for wannabe stars.
Did you really borrow money from a gangster to get started?
I knew Martin Cahill, aka The General, who was a gangster, and I liked him a lot. I know he was a bad man, but he was always nice to me. But the truth is he didn't play any role in my musical life.
So are you pleased with the film?
I think the film is great in its own right, a genuinely funny movie with some fantastic actors. But it does make me squirm. Even Ivan said he was starting to feel sorry for me after watching it.
Even though you are now a leading rock writer, when you look back on those years, do you ever think, "If only… "
I think 'if onlys' are a waste of mental space. If I learned one lesson from 13 years of failure, it was to deal with life as it is.
And are you pleased with Barnes's portrayal of you?
I think he's done an amazing job. And, of course, the physical resemblance is uncanny!